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The data behind UConn men’s basketball’s historic start

This team is crazy good.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

No. 3 UConn men’s basketball has its highest AP Poll ranking in over a decade, when the Huskies were also ranked No. 3 in the final regular season poll of the 2008-09 season. This year’s team won each of its 11 non-conference games by double digits, with its closest margin coming by 10 points over Oklahoma State.

Since UConn’s first national championship season in 1999, the Huskies have finished non-league play undefeated five times in non-pandemic years: 2022-23, 2010-11, 2008-09, 2005-06. However, each prior iteration experienced a single-digit win.

This run of play has been historic for an already storied program, which has also secured a No. 1 ranking in KenPom and is slotted No. 4 in Bart Torvik’s rankings.

This run of domination included a 15-point win over an Alabama team that was ranked No. 18, has beat the No. 1 team in the AP Poll away from home twice, and is now slotted No. 4. The Huskies also beat three other top-50 KenPom teams in Iowa State and Oregon, and OSU.

The Huskies’ efficiency on both sides of the ball is unmatched nationwide. As of the completion of play on Thursday, UConn was ranked No. 7 in adjusted offensive efficiency per KenPom and No. 4 defensively. Hurley’s team is the only one in the top 10 in both categories with only UCLA, Virginia, Kansas, Alabama, and Kentucky sitting in the top 20 in both.

The Huskies also have two players in the top 100 of KenPom’s offensive rating, with Adama Sanogo, who is fourth in the site’s player of the year rankings, close behind at No. 101. At this point, UConn is also the program with the best shot at running the table out of the seven remaining undefeated teams, at 2.8 percent. The next highest? Virginia, at 0.2 percent.

This team is also elite at putting games away. Per EvanMiya, the Huskies have 10 kill shots this season, which is defined as a 10-0 run or greater. That is tied for No. 13 in the country and is four off the pace set by Rutgers. On the defensive end, UConn is one of eight teams to have not surrendered a kill shot.

Through a historic lens, this is the most efficient UConn team many metrics have ever tracked. KenPom has game-by-game data back through the 2010-11 season and the Huskies have never held the top ranking at any point in the database’s history, which goes to 1996-97. UConn reached as high as No. 2 at the end of the 2003-04 and 2008-09 seasons, but its previous high headed into its conference debut was No. 20 in 2011-12.

Bart Torvik has game-by-game rankings back to 2014-15 and last year was the Huskies’ highest-ever rank headed into its first league game, at No. 26. Torvik’s overall data goes back to 2007-08 and the team’s current No. 4 ranking is just behind a No. 3 ranking for the 2008-09 squad.

This is a UConn team that is one of the best and most efficient in program history and arguably the best since at least the 2008-09 Final Four squad. Given the state of the Big East, the Huskies have the opportunity to dominate league play and earn a very high seed in the NCAA Tournament.